Now that I am retired having been many years a magistrate with a long awareness of the declining freedoms enjoyed by the ordinary citizen and a corresponding fear of the big brother state`s ever increasing encroachment on civil liberties I hope that my personal observations within these general parameters will be of interest to those with an open mind. Having been blogging with this title for many years against the rules of the Ministry of Justice my new found freedom should allow me to be less inhibited in these observations.
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Monday, 1 August 2016
HIS LORDSHIP WAS TOO IMPORTANT TO SUFFER COURT DELAY
As with many institutions there are timetables for the working of our courts. These are drawn up months, weeks or days in advance depending upon the detail involved and allowing if and when possible for last minute adjustments. These timetables or listings by their very nature must allow for variation and adaptability. For trials at magistrates` courts witnesses are generally required to attend at 9.30am or perhaps 10.00am for morning sittings and 1.30pm or 2.00pm for those in the afternoon. Depending upon the circumstances of the day the bench will decide the order of priorities when dealing with more than a single matter listed for a sitting. These decisions will depend upon the time previously allocated for the matter(s), witness readiness, advocates` preparedness, advice from legal advisor and any other circumstances deemed important. Whilst witnesses and defendants are expected to attend there is generally no compulsion upon the former except in the relatively few cases when a witness summons has been served.
Last Tuesday at Highbury Corner Magistrates` Court in north London a certain Lord Glasman was in attendance as the prosecution`s chief witness in a trial in which it was alleged that the accused had attempted to rob him of his briefcase. However for reasons unknown the trial did not proceed at the time listed; presumably 10.00am. His lordship being a very important man with an appointment to participate in a meeting with the Governor of the Bank of England and others decided, after being kept waiting over an hour to be called, that his meeting was more important than the trial and left. As a result the trial had to be been adjourned until August 9th. Obviously there is a cost to his lordship`s inabilty to monitor his diary and schedule his time appropriately. Other witnesses might have had their time wasted. A CPS prosecutor and a defence lawyer have had their preparation time wasted and the accused is required to endure a (extended?) curfew until the new trial date. In simple terms this supposedly important personage has placed his personal responsibilities ahead of his civil duties as a responsible citizen.
And what of the hundreds of witnesses daily who attend trials at magistrates` courts? Do they not suffer the frustrations of being kept waiting? Do they not allow for delay in their timetables? I can understand that an ordinary working man or woman unfamiliar with the courts and their systemic problems of delay might be caught short in their personal schedules eg in matters of childcare or responsibilies to employers but in this case we are dealing with a highly educated member of the House of Lords.
IMHO he is a disgrace to that House and a man whose arrogance to the court is just another example of the disfunction between the ruler and the ruled. Indeed he is so self important that he hasn`t spoken in parliament for almost three years. It is unknown whether or not the defence will table a wasted costs order at the close of the proceedings.